Johnny Manziel: The Value of the Pocket Pt. 1

Johnny Manziel will start for the Cleveland Browns this week. Why is the "pocket" so important? A quick three part series on why staying in the pocket is important for Manziel and the Browns offense.

Johnny Manziel got inserted into Week 1 for the Cleveland Browns. While he looked better than he did last year, there were still some big concerns. How Manziel plays on Sunday will be vital to the Browns chances to win in Week 2 against the Titans. 

In this quick three part series, we will take a look at why the "pocket" is so important for Manziel and the Browns offense. The above picture gives a general idea of what we are talking about when we say "pocket." It is the area that most QBs make their plays from and a place that Manziel has seemed uncomfortable.

We start our series with looking at why the pocket is so important for Manziel in relation to his offensive line. We will follow that up with part two talking about his eyes and finish up with looking at the importance of angles related to the pocket. None of the diagrams are going to be overly complex nor to answer all the questions, just a way to share some information.

For now let's look at how being in the pocket is vital for the offensive line for 3, 5 and 7 step drops:

When the offensive play calls for a 3 step drop, the offensive line assumes that Manziel will setup just behind the original line of scrimmage. For a 3 step drop, the line expects that the ball will get out of the QBs hand quickly and look to push defenders outside, since Manziel is expected to be shallow in the pocket.

On 3 step drops, offensive plays are setup with quick breaking routes or short routes that Manziel can go through his progressions quickly. The offensive lineman also try to engage their defenders quickly to get their hands down so they can't knock down the pass. This allows defenders to shed their blocks quicker though, if Manziel holds on to the ball longer than expected.

The line also needs to try to present throwing lanes inside of the pocket as the QB does not have enough space from the line of scrimmage to throw over the linemen easily.

A little deeper drop here, and about where a shotgun snap is going to be played from, in a 5 step drop. 

As you look at the two diagrams, you can see the difference for the offensive line. With Manziel expected to be farther back in the pocket, the tackles and guards are less likely to let their defenders to get up field. Instead they want to set a little shorter to allow Manziel space to move inside of the pocket, including up if needed. 

Browns linemen won't attack defenders hands as quickly, as the expectation is that Manziel will have a few more beats to throw and receivers will be running longer, deeper routes. Manziel will also have a couple extra feet away from the line of scrimmage, giving him better sight lines. The line will also expect to hold their blocks a little longer than a 3 step drop.

The offensive line attempts to be a little flatter in their blocking with Manziel deeper in the pocket. Their angles are a little flatter, similar to a quick set on a quick 1 step drop, but instead of attacking defenders the line cushions. The line has to protect longer on a 7 step drop as primary receivers run deeper routes. 

The linemen are expecting Manziel to be deep in the pocket so they try to keep defenders from getting around the corner at all. Primary routes ran will take a few more seconds to develop, an out and up or a long 9 route, so Manziel will need to be able to step into his throws as well.

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Problems

In the 3 step drop, Manziel hasn't done a good job getting rid of the ball quickly. When he tries to escape, he has to try to get around defenders that the offensive line has tried to push up field on the outside. Those defenders are often outside of Manziel's vision, which has led to big hits and fumbles in his short career.

In 5 and 7 step drops, Manziel tends to backup, instead of step up, in the pocket. The Brows line is prepared to protect him better generally inside. As he backs up or tries to rollout, linemen struggle with holding calls as the guy they are suppose to defend is no longer where they expect him to be. Since they can't see him, they believe Manziel will be at the 5 or 7 step drop point, behind them, and are protecting that spot.

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While Johnny Manziel showed improvement in Week 1, compared to the trainwreck of last year, his uncomfort with the pocket is problematic. His offensive line wants to protect him in the pocket and every play is setup with an assumption of where Manziel will be. With his quick escape from the pocket, his offensive linemen have struggled to protect the way they want to and the way the offense is setup to do.

Later today we look at Johnny's eyes and in the morning we rollout the final part of this series looking at angles.


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